Chinese users may have to pay for WeChat use

The government is looking into the possibility of making users of Tencent's mobile messaging app pay local operators for the service, but will prevent collusion among operators to fix the prices.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

The Chinese government is considering whether to get domestic users of WeChat, the free mobile messaging app from Web giant Tencent, to pay operators for using the service in the future.

Citing a report by Caixin Media, the Global Times reported Sunday that Miao Wei, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), said: "The ministry is looking into the possibility of having users pay for WeChat and has asked the operators to submit a plan. But the regulator will consider the impact on users and will not allow high fees to be charged." 

The Chinese government is considering whether users of the currently free WeChat app should pay telcos a fee.

He added a competition mechanism must be introduced to determine the fee, but the ministry will not allow the three domestic operators--China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom--to collude and fix the pricing. MIIT is China's governing body for the telecommunications and Internet sectors.

A separate Reuters report Sunday said the operators were looking at charging users for WeChat due to the app's large data bandwidth use.

Tencent said in a statement its goal is to work with the operators for a win-win outcome instead of competing for a share of their profits from traditional communication services, Global Times reported. 

The three operators were not available for comment, the news agency added, but noted Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom, saying previously the current free WeChat service is a preparation for a paid service in the future.

Chang also said any practice that violates economic rules will not last long, and telecom operators and companies offering OTT services should support each other for mutual benefit.

WeChat, also known as Weixin, currently has over 300 million users globally since Tencent launched the service two years ago.

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